Monday, September 16, 2013

Wrap Up: Amber on the Mountain

We just wrapped up a week on the Five in a Row unit Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston.

I know I say it every week, but this was such a wonderful story and fantastic "row"!  Amber on the Mountain is about a lonely little girl who works on the family farm in the Appalachian mountains.  Amber cannot read or write, but she desperately wants to learn how.  A man brings his wife and daughter with him while he works to build a road up to the mountain.  Amber befriends the man's daughter, and the daughter, Anna, teachers Amber how to read.  Throughout the story there are references to Amber's mule Rockhead and his stubbornness.  The girls call themselves "rockheaded" when they set their minds on teaching and learning to read.  It's a beautiful story of friendship and determination!  We remain completely enamored with FIAR as our core homeschool curriculum.  Here's what we did with Amber:

Social Studies:
Amber is set in the Appalachian mountains.  The book is no more specific than that, so I had the kids color a map of the mountain range, we discussed what states are in Appalachia, and we chose to put our story disc on the map in West Virginia, right in the middle of the range.  We looked at the page in The Amazing Pop-Up  Geography Book about mountains and mountain ranges, and had good time locating some of the world's highest mountains on the world map.  The kids were disappointed that none of the mountains on the list of top 5 tallest were in the Appalachian Range.  Yeah, sorry kids.

That afternoon, we watched a video from the library called That Book Woman.  This was one of my favorite parts of the week.  It's also about a family in Appalachia who have little access to schools or books.  This darling story is based on a real group of women, the Pack Horse Librarians, who through a New Deal project in the 1930s took mobile libraries up into the mountains on horseback, giving the people in the back woods of Appalachia access to books and magazines.  Definitely pick up this title as a go-along if you row Amber!   On the same theme, we enjoyed Waiting for the Biblioburro, which was pretty much the same story, but set in Mexico.  Beautiful illustrations in that one.

We did a second day of social studies on the character trait of friendship, drawing comparisons between Amber and Anna and Max and Boris from Another Celebrated Dancing Bear.  I wasn't sure if they would hear the overlap in plot between the two stories, but they were SO excited and pointed out all the similarities I had hoped they would see.

Language Arts:
Amber is FULL of similes.  There are multiple similes on every page in the story.  We read Crazy like a  Fox to start our language arts day, and once the kids understood the idea of a simile, we re-read Amber, with them nearly jumping out of their seats over and over again, every time they heard a simile, to point them out.  I had them do a notebook page after that, completing the sentences "This mountain is as high as..." and "That road is windy like..." and illustrating one of the similes they made up.  My favorites were Jono's "That road is windy like a swirly whirly pool," which is what my kids call whirlpools, and Charlie's "This mountain is as high as the deepest ocean trench." There was a blurb in the Pop-up Geography Book about how some of the highest mountains in the world come up from the ocean floor, and really latched on to that idea.

For science we discussed why Amber's Granny thought that there was no way you could build a road up the mountain with "people rolling clean off."  I made a play doh model of a mountain and we put a little house up on top and then discussed how a road straight up the side of the mountain would be far too dangerous and steep.  We then talked about alternatives--switch backs, or a road that winds slowly around the mountain. We discussed that those paths are longer, but much safer, etc.  The kids pointed out a few days later, when we were at Storyland Park, that the path up "Jack and Jill's hill" is windy so that it's not too steep, but that the slide off of it is straight down, since it's OK for slides to be steep, but not paths/roads.  They got it! I suspect I'll hear the same the next time we are at Monkey Hill at the zoo!

I also bought the kids a set of Lincoln Logs and brought them out this week.  Charlie has done little else,  building many a cabin for Amber and Granny Cotton.  The first day he built a group of log buildings together in the middle of his room.  The second day, the tore them all down and re-built them in the corners of his room, spread apart.  When I asked why, he quoted from the book, "Mountain people live scattered far from each other.  Amber was lonesome." Sweet boy.

In the book, when the road is complete and Anna leaves, Amber gives her a little clay mule.  We played with clay (a first for us!), discussed sculpture, and made a trip to the New Orleans sculpture garden.  We've been there before, but it's always fun.

We also tried our hand at following these instructions and drew Rockhead the mule!

We skipped applied math this row, but we have continued to do work our way through our stand-alone math curriculum, so that subject has certainly not been neglected.  Thanks for catching up with us!

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